Educating a Future Cancer Survivor
Meet Dr. Raviya Singh and Dr. Helmet Hollenhorst.
Today’s session was to educate me about the radiation treatments.
The appointment started with a Resident, Dr. Singh. She provided my wife Janet and I with a lot of information. In human-speak, you can find my interpretation of our conversation below. I have a lot of documentation to digest yet, so some of what follows might require minor corrections.
- The goal of external-beam radiation treatment is to destroy cancer cells.
- The actual duration of each radiation treatment is 3-5 minutes. Most of the session time is spent positioning me to ensure that the external-beam is correctly pointed at my tumor to most effectively kill the cancer cells.
- My treatment will span five weeks. It will start on a Monday and repeat Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There will be no treatments on Saturday or Sunday. Those are rest days to let me recover and recharge for the next round. Should I miss a day due to a holiday or any other reason it will be added to the end of the five-weeks.
- In advance of the treatment I will have a session in which a radiation markers tattoo will be permanently drawn on my chest at the site where the beam will penetrate my skin. This is used to accurately position the machine which shoots the external-beam of radiation to exactly the same location from one session to the next.
- Over the five week duration, there will be a total of twenty five treatments.
- The side effects are different for every person. I can expect to be tired, have nausea, a sunburn-like mark where the external-beam passes through my skin, and develop inflammation along the path of the beam leading to pain around the tumor. With the close proximity of the tumor to the base of my lungs, there may be inflammation develop in my lungs leading to an irritating cough.
The radiation treatments take place in conjunction with chemotherapy. I will learn more about that on Monday, January 20th.
Dr. Helmet Hollenhorst is my lead Radiation Oncologist. He joined Dr. Singh in the meeting to address any questions about the radiation treatment plan she outlined. He reviewed a few of the key points.
Then Dr. Hollenhorst explained the protocol used to make final treatment decisions. He will bring his radiation recommendations to a team comprised of my Chemotherapy Oncologist, Thoracic Surgeon, Residents, and Radiation Oncology Nurse. Once there is agreement on an appropriate plan for my case, this will be presented to panel of other teams who are invited to suggest any changes which they believe may be more effective. The goal of this decision protocol is to provide an opportunity for a large collection of experts to review, reflect and finalize a treatment plan with the best probability of a positive outcome.
On completion of the five week treatment regime, there is a rest period of two to three weeks to recover in order to be physically fit for surgery. During this time, I will have a second PET Scan to ensure the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of my body, which is not expected, but should it occur, it will be back to the drawing board for a new treatment plan.
- It will take two to three weeks to finalize a treatment plan. Ideally, treatment will begin on Monday, February 3rd.
- The treatment plan lasts for five weeks. Ideally, treatment will conclude on Friday, March 6th.
- This is followed by a two to three week rest period to be physically fit for surgery. Ideally, I will be adequately recovered after two weeks on Friday, March 20th.
- On this timeline, surgery could be as soon as the week of March 23rd.
I think Dr. Hollenhorst was impressed with:
- My strength and fitness level.
- The amount of physical activity in my regular routine.
- My adoption of a plant-based diet and ongoing effort to avoid processed food.
- The fact that I am not on any medications.
- That I haven’t smoked since February 22nd, 2006.
- My attitude to becoming a cancer survivor.
Today’s meeting concluded with the signing of consent forms.
Then a Radiation Oncology Nurse, Erin Sutcliffe, joined Janet and I to distribute a library of literature to review later. I have a lot of homework.
I am in a place of emotional peace. With that said, I’m ready to get started.
Thanks for joining me on the journey.
Peace, Love and Laughter